Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Main Post 9/20

In Brumberg's article, "The Body Project," she outlines how women's perceptions of the ideal female body have changed from 1920 to 1990 and the different ways in which they tried to sculpt their bodies to fit these molds. Brumberg starts off by claiming that by starting in the 20th century, women (particularly adolescent) began obsessing over their bodies and "organizing their thinking about themselves around their bodies" (97), believing that the body is the "ultimate expression of the self." In the 1920's both fashion and film both started showing more skin and promoted the "unveiling" of women's bodies, and as a result, ushered in strict beauty and diet rules (many of which required money to follow). The new ideal female body consisted in being tall, skinny, and fairly flat-chested (as opposed to their voluptuous predecessors). Consequently, girls started intensely monitoring their weight and dieting in order to achieve this body type. This dieting shows the shift from external to internal control of the body. The story of Yvonne Blue shows the pressure girls felt to conform to this slender body type from the media, their peers, and society as a whole. Yvonne claimed that she was going to lose 30 pounds before school started or "die in the attempt" (103). She began intensely monitoring her weight--dieting, counting her calories. She even tried to limit her daily caloric intake to 50 CALORIES, eating only lettuce, carrots, celery, and tea. Yvonne viewed her body image as her identity, and thus thought she could recreate herself through her body alone. Brumberg next talks about breasts, and how in the 1950's both women and men became preoccupied with them (she refers to this preoccupation as the "mammary fixation"). In earlier times, not fully developed girls usually wore camisole that had no cups, which were designed to flatten the chest (which was ideal at the time). In the 1950's, however, there was a move from homemade bras to mass-produced bras, which resulted in the pervasive belief that if you did not perfectly fit into one of the store's bra sizes your body was abnormal and there was something wrong with it. "Training" bras now came on the market for younger girls, whose chests were still very flat. Doctors even began giving medical reasons for wearing bras at a young age. As a result of this societal need for girls to wear bras at much younger ages than they used to (or probably needed to), girls' bodies were sexualized earlier than they had been in the past. Brumberg then goes on to talk more about dieting. American girls became obsessed with their weight and used it as a measurement for their self-value. In the 1960's, girls mainly skipped meals and counted calories in order to lose weight. In the 1990's, however, the "fitness craze" emerged as the new ideal body type for women was not just skinny, but toned. The new focus of women became their lower body and having sleek and toned legs (particularly the thighs) and cellulite! In the final segment of the article, Brumberg discusses the rise in popularity of piercings in the 1990's for women. Once regarded as primitive, having piercings became the "latest form of self-expression for American adolescents" (130). Not just ear piercings, but naval, nose, eyebrow, and even genitals.

In Steinem's article, “Sex, Lies & Advertising,” she discusses how the women's magazine she worked for, Ms, immensely struggled to find advertisers, who would buy space in their magazine. Many companies were not willing to place their advertisements in this magazine because they thought their products would not appeal to women, and thus they would simply be wasting their money and time by advertising them. Among these companies were car and electronics companies, who stubbornly and stereotypically believed that women were completely uninterested in purchasing these items themselves, and if they were surprisingly interested, they would ask their husband (or a man's advice) of what to purchase. Steinem is also outraged by how the advertisements in women's magazine consume the magazine and make them "editorial extensions of ads." She asserts that we have to stand up for ourselves and other women and support only the women's magazines (as well as products) that take women seriously and write to those who do not and voice our complaints.

In the article, "Ruminations of a Feminist Fitness Instructor", Valdes discusses how she used to be a (prominent) aerobics instructor. She was making a lot of money, but felt pangs in her conscience as she felt she was betraying her feminist self by working in a job that was in a way promoting women's obsession with conforming to the ideal body type. While she tried to find some justification in what she did, like that "women had smashed the sex barrier that once excluded them from this 'male' domain [of vigorous exercise]" (29). However, she was not able to fight off her conscience and feminist beliefs, and she eventually quit her job as an aerobics instructor to go to Columbia for graduate school and later become a writer for the Boston Globe, in which she found her true source of empowerment. Even though she would go into debt from attending grad school, this was a sacrifice she was willing to take.

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